LEADING ROCK CLIMBERS SPEAK UP ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

On October 8, 2020, well-known free soloist Alex Honnold highlighted the need for action on the subject of climate change in an article published in Climbing. He begins the piece by pointing out how he spent half a dozen years imagining his project to climb the massive rock face of El Capitan in Yosemite, alone and with no ropes. After prolonged contemplation, he realized that the climb wouldn’t happen unless there was concrete action from his side.    

“ I see a real parallel to climate change. It’s the apex issue facing our generation—an issue that feels too big and too complex to act on. It’s all encompassing, impacting almost every other environmental issue that we currently face. And it’s incredibly urgent, with most scientists agreeing that as a global community we only have until 2030 to make meaningful changes before the worst effects of warming are permanently baked into our future. The scope of the problem is frightening, and the sense of dread that accompanies it can easily lead to apathy. That’s why I spent six years thinking about soloing El Cap, but not doing it—it seemed entirely too scary to act. But that lack of action didn’t serve me. Ultimately, I had to overcome my fear and start making concrete steps towards my goal,’’ Honnold writes in the piece, which argues against continued extraction of fossil fuels.

According to him, “ corporate interests have essentially privatized the profits of fossil fuel extraction while socializing the cost of pollution. These barriers can make it feel as though change isn’t possible on the individual level.’’ Further even as individual actions (travel less, eat less meat, have fewer kids, and vote) matters, the pressing need is to address fossil fuel extraction. Honnold argues that decreasing the funding for dirty technologies is the best way out. To this end he suggests that everyone choose their bank carefully. Banks loan the bulk of the capital they raise and within that world, lending for fossil fuel extraction has grown significantly after the 2016 Paris Agreement (on measures to control climate change). “ Being deliberate and choosing a sustainable bank is key,’’ he writes. To read the full article please click on this link: https://www.climbing.com/news/alex-honnold-climate-change-is-urgent-we-need-to-decrease-extraction-now/

Roughly a week after Honnold’s piece appeared, on October 14, 2020, another well-known climber Tommy Caldwell, published an article on climate change and the need for urgent action. Writing in Rock and Ice, he couched his arguments in the reality of climbing in the western United States, where ongoing climate change has annually sparked huge forest fires.  “ Right now, the American West is blanketed in smoke from forest fires, a direct result of our changing climate. Fire season is now longer and more intense. In years past, I’ve been evacuated from my home in Colorado twice due to the threat of fire. As a climber, I spend a lot of time hanging off granite walls from Yosemite to the Rockies. It’s from those unique vantage points that I’ve gained perspective on what’s happening to our climate,’’ Caldwell says, adding “ I’ve seen an increase in dangerous rockfall attributed to warming temperatures and I’ve watched as wintertime climbing routes disappear completely due to snowmelt. Ouray, Colorado, one of the most famous ice-climbing spots in America, is rapidly losing ice, which could render ice climbing there a thing of the past.’’

Caldwell appeared clear that change won’t happen unless the right people are voted to power. “ My kids, who are four and seven, are in for a much tougher world. I’m trying to do everything I can to prepare them but also to minimize the harshness that could become their reality,’’ Caldwell says. To read this article in full, please click on this link: https://rockandice.com/climbing-news/tommy-caldwell-trump-is-going-to-ruin-rock-climbing/

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

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